Sleep it off
A book by Dr. Stanley Coren, entitled Sleep Thieves, blames Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb, to a large extent. It is in our evolutionary nature to want to sleep when night falls, as most other creatures do.
Sleep it off
Believe it or not, you can do yourself a lot of damage by just not getting enough sleep, so much so that 1998 research by the American National Sleep Foundation led them to issue a warning that less than six and a half hours a night can kill you, over time.. They say that eight hours is the optimal amount, so if you’re one of those bright young things who is convinced that you can manage on less, think again.
Sleep is seen far too often as slothful, or time wasting, in this frantic world of today, and the blame for this public attitude lies in several places.. A book by Dr. Stanley Coren, entitled Sleep Thieves, blames Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb, to a large extent. It is in our evolutionary nature to want to sleep when night falls, as most other creatures do.
It’s true to say that, before the light bulb brightened the darkness, people would spend an average nine hours a night tucked up in bed, yet today, we have added almost 500 extra waking hours to each year of our lives – on average – and many people pay a heavy price for it. The advent of the internet hasn’t helped much, either. With so much information and entertainment available all day every day, many sleep even less.
It seems truly staggering that we should all play with our well being so flippantly, when the body’s need for a period of rest and recuperation is so obvious. OK, the actual function of sleep is still the subject of ongoing research, but if you’re like a bear with a sore head most mornings, it won’t be any surprise to find that you don’t rate yourself all that highly in other areas of your life.
Every creature needs differing amounts. A gorilla averages 12 hours, where a horse needs only three, so it has nothing to do with size. Bigger doesn’t mean a tendency to sleep more – Rabbits need more sleep than humans. Did you know that hen you slip into the realms of slumber your metabolism slows by about 20%? You use less Oxygen, and your body temperature falls.
The first part of sleep – called slow-wave – is thought to be much longer for those who have high metabolic rates when awake, so it seems that energy conservation plays a major role. The body uses the rest period to make repairs, store proteins and release growth hormones, as well as stepping up the activity of the immune system. Infections are fought much more successfully during sleep, because the body can concentrate more energy into it.
If you don’t know the signs of sleep deprivation, take note, because it could just be that your entire demeanour would be changed, just by hitting the sack an hour earlier than you do now. If you find you have trouble focusing your eyes, that your memory isn’t all it could be, and that you’re prone to inexplicable hallucinations, then you are seriously short on the sleep you need.
If you don’t laugh at jokes as easily as others, or your reaction times seem a bit jaded, then perhaps you need to rethink your nighttime routine. It’s thought that sleep deprivation was partly responsible for that disastrous Challenger mission – when the shuttle exploded just after take-off in 1986, and also that it may have played some part in the Chernobyl disaster.
A study of over ten thousand adults in Finland seemed to point to those who slept less having an average life expectancy two and half years shorter than their counterparts, and it seems that young people who sleep less are more prone to infections like boils and athletes foot, as well as being far more likely to catch colds and flu.
It may never have occurred to you that your zest for life is very much dependant on your bodily well being, or that your lack of it may simply be down to your not taking proper care of your bodily needs. Even your ego is affected, as is the way you seem to others.
If you want to be the life and soul of the parties you attend, and be popular and likeable, just say goodnight that bit sooner in future.
You can ignore the advice that you should stop smoking or drinking if you want to. Perhaps you see these things as your inalienable right, in terms of free choice, but don’t ignore the pleas of your tired frame when it tells you to call a halt for that particular day. You’ll end up happier, healthier, and maybe even live longer. If you have a bad case of the blues, the answer’s simple. Sleep it off.